Mother’s Love Priceless But Has No Monetary Value, Washington Appeals Court Rules


Paige Cornwell / The Seattle Times

What is a mother’s love worth? It’s priceless but not a thing of value, an appeals court ruled, overturning a Skagit County woman’s conviction for soliciting to kill her former husband.

The Washington Court of Appeals on Monday overturned Vanessa Valdiglesias LaValle’s conviction of first-degree solicitation to commit murder, for which she had been found guilty in 2021 for trying to persuade her son to kill his father with rat poison. Valdiglesias LaValle, who lived in Mount Vernon, was sentenced to 15 years in prison for her conviction, which is now remanded to trial court.

Valdiglesias LaValle, who had lost custody of her two children, in 2020 told her son, then 10 years old, that if he put rat poison in her ex-husband’s food and drinks then the boy’s dad would die, and she and the children could live together forever, according to a secretly recorded conversation referenced in court documents.

The three Court of Appeals Division 1 judges ruled Valdiglesias LaValle’s desire to be with her two children forever doesn’t equate to a “thing of value” necessary to support a criminal solicitation conviction. In Washington state, a person is guilty of criminal solicitation when he or she “offers to give or gives money or other thing of value” with intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime.

The term “thing of value” refers to tangible or intangible items that have monetary value, the appeals court wrote. Valdiglesias LaValle’s son testified during her trial in Skagit County Superior Court that he took his mother seriously but that she never spoke of actually giving him something to poison his dad. No evidence showed she offered to give, or gave, her son anything of value, the appeals court wrote.

Valdiglesias LaValle’s attorney, Suzanne Lee Elliott of the Washington Appellate Project, said she was pleased with the judges’ opinion.

“I think they reached the right decision because how one defines ‘solicitation’ can be either wildly overinclusive or include actions that don’t sufficiently indicate an intent or an exchange for the crime,” she said.

Valdiglesias LaValle, 39, grew up in Peru and met her now-former husband through an online dating service. They married in Skagit County in 2008, when she was 25 and he was 50, and had two children. He filed for dissolution in 2015, according to court documents. She was awarded full custody until 2019, when he was granted full custody and she was given weekly four-hour visits.

During one of the visits, Valdiglesias LaValle’s son decided to secretly record their conversation using a phone hidden under a blanket because his father had suggested he do so. Audio of the recording was played during the trial.

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